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Who’s the Boss?
Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr
When Jesus had come into the temple area, the chief priests and the elders of the people approached him as he was teaching and said, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them in reply, “I shall ask you one question, and if you answer it for me, then I shall tell you by what authority I do these things. Where was John’s baptism from? Was it of heavenly or of human origin?” They discussed this among themselves and said, “If we say ‘Of heavenly origin,’ he will say to us, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin,’ we fear the crowd, for they all regard John as a prophet.” So they said to Jesus in reply, “We do not know.” He himself said to them, “Neither shall I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
Opening Prayer: Lord, how I struggle some days to turn to you as my ultimate authority. Please humble me so that I can truly give you authority over my life. Help me to remember that you are the author of my life. Teach me to trust in you and your wisdom in all things.
- Questioning Christ: From our vantage point, it can seem incredible that the chief priests and the elders were unable to recognize the Messiah. These men had spent a lifetime immersed in the Old Testament. Jesus’ life from beginning to end was a perfect unfolding of the prophecies regarding the Messiah. Yet instead of joyfully welcoming him, they were threatened by him. His miracles and his popularity threatened their control over the religious life of the Jews. They were blinded by their strict misinterpretation of the signs of the times. As praying people we also know Christ well, but we can avoid the downfall of the elders by practicing discernment, which is the prayerful listening for the will of God in our lives.
- These Things You Do: This portion of the Gospel unfolded during Tuesday of Holy Week. What, exactly, had Jesus done to so anger the chief priests and the elders? He had entered the town in a procession, honored as a king. He had healed and performed miracles. He had cleansed the temple and exposed the abuses and wrongdoing there. Now he was teaching in the Temple, and they quickly laid a trap for him with their question. If he said his authority was human, they would quickly conclude that he was, in fact, not authorized to teach—he was not a priest or scribe or Levite. If he answered that he had divine authority, they would accuse him of blasphemy. It was a well-crafted trap, but they had completely underestimated the wisdom of Jesus. We can fall prey to this kind of scheming, even unwittingly, when we make “deals” with God or cling to our own understanding of things instead of acknowledging that Jesus is Wisdom Incarnate.
- Questioning the Accusers: Jesus promised to answer their question if they would answer his question: “Who gave John the Baptist authority?” The chief priests and elders did not want to anger the crowd who regarded John as a great prophet by saying he did not have divine authority. If they said John’s authority was divine, then they gave credence to John’s claim that Jesus was the Messiah. Since they answered that they did not know, Jesus didn’t answer their question. His time was near, but it had not come; thus, he evaded their trap. May we, in times of trial or sorrow, lean on Jesus instead of questioning him.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, I can see myself in the chief priests and elders. I do not like it when you bring me face-to-face with my failings and my sins. I want to argue back, to make excuses. Help me to see myself as you do. Give me the grace to be the best version of myself.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will pray the Magnificat asking Mary to intercede for me, that I may be humbled and surrender authority to her son over my life.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
he has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he has remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children forever.
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
For Further Reflection: Read this reflection by Fr. John Hardon, SJ, to deepen your understanding of The Magnificat.
Cathy Stamper lives in Maryland with her husband, Mike. They have been partners in marriage and business for thirty-one years. Together they have been blessed with five young adult children. She is a lay member of Regnum Christi.